Lessons from the Danish Education Fair

20170304_171720-collageThis week I went to the Danish Education Fair in Copenhagen to participate in a program focusing on integrating eTwinning and 21st Century Skills in projects with students. I saw great stands focusing on student projects, literacy, coding and games, among many others! There was also a program of great lectures, some of which were open to all teachers! From all these impressions there are two lessons I want to bring back to my students and colleagues:

  1. Breaking down 21st Century Skills in steps understandable for my students

I have planned and participated in eTwinning projects a few years now, in an ongoing effort to open my classroom and to go paperless. At this Education Fair, I learnt how the Danish Ministry of Education has mapped six of these 21st Century Skills, and have had students’ help to make them understandable for their peers. Look at this picture from 21Skills.dk to see what I mean:

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My goal in eTwinning projects is to let my students work in international teams, communicating and solving tasks together to make a product. This way of breaking down the skill of collaboration into levels; where 1 is no collaboration and 6 is when the students are co-creators and fully collaborate to make a product, helps me understand this skill better. A vital requirement if I am going to succeed in explaining it to my students! In my next eTwinning project “Exploring Fables Together”, our goal is to work towards reaching level 6 in student collaboration. Do you think this kind of mapping of a competency is useful too?

2)  Integrative Complexity

The lecture which made an impact on me at this Education Fair was called “Integrative Complexity Thinkers are Prepared for Digital Citizenship” by Dr Eolene Boyd-MacMillan from the University of Cambridge, UK. Dr Boyd-MacMillan explained how social media can be an entry into an echo chamber, but with guidance, our students can also enter a learning galaxy of new ideas and information. How can we help them past the echo chamber and into the galaxy? A definition of integrative complexity (IC) offered by Prof Peter Suedfeld & Prof Philip Tetlock is that it is a thinking style… the how of thinking. Dr Boyd-MacMillan has worked to operationalise the IC concept and found a way to design courses to help students develop their way of thinking and solving problems. No small feat! Their goal:

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This is an important goal for most teachers: Helping our students become active participants and contributors in our civic society. Integrative Complexity can be hard to develop. Over-simple, polarised positions, and maybe fake messages, are attractive to us because they are easy for our brain to process. It is harder to develop high-level integrative complexity if we remain in an echo-chamber. Digital citizenship can accelerate learning. We can help our students increase their understanding by this acknowledgement: We can all be part of the problem. Equally, we can be part of the solution; to respect and listen to each other to learn.

These were the lessons I wanted to share the most from the Danish Education Fair. Did I manage to visualise how competencies can be mapped out, and to give you an introduction to integrative complexity? I hope so. I’d love to hear your ideas too, so please leave a comment if you want to. Inquiring minds want to know.

 

eTwinning is a learning community

It was fitting that the annual workshop for eTwinning ambassadors was set in Rhodes, Greece this year. This beautiful island of roses, whose patron saint is the personification of the sun; Helios, has a truly multicultural heritage.

This year 144 enthusiastic ambassadors from 34 European countries came together to learn, share best practices and network. The eTwinning ambassadors’ main focus is to support our over 400.000 teachers, and to spread the word about eTwinning. If you think: “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” We’d love to tell you!



eTwinning is the community of teachers and students in Europe. We are connected educators promoting 21st century skills through project based learning (PBL). Since the beginning in 2005, over 50.000 projects has been carried out, and member countries are continuously expanding.


When a project is registred in eTwinning students and teachers start a journey with others. eTwinning provides a safe room to connect, collaborate in mixed nationality teams to co-create products, and to grow understanding of their topics and cultures together. Being connected leads to engagement and participation, which fosters belonging and enjoyment. These are powerful experiences.



Over time we are creating new learning paths and creating learning communities where valuable skills are not always tangible; knowledge, problem solving, teamwork and negotiations.


Project based learning is the roots of eTwinning. It is a different approach to learning than lecturing. Students encounter real world problems, phenomena and challenges in a project. By exploring learning materials to solve problems, the students are active creators and engaged in their learning with their peers, which means they can take ownership and knowledge is better internalized. These students will be constructing knowledge and experience empowerment. Not a small thing!



The best projects are integrated in the curriculum, and impacts the communities of their partner schools; through new friendships, increased cultural understanding, language skills, inclusion and digital citizenship. Their products vary from exhibitions, fairs, ebooks, bake sales, articles, stories, videos, competitions and more. The eTwinning ambassadors support teacher members in their work, and are role models. Join us in creating learning paths of the future.


A big shout out goes to Irene Pateraki, the Greek National Support Service, and all the Greek ambassadors for hosting this year’s conference, letting us connect to improve education in the multicultural wonder of Rhodes. A big thanks also to Tiina Sarisalmi, whose workshop I attended on Project Based Learning. Two of her slides on PBL are pictured in this blog post!

End of term reflections 2015

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This last term I went paperless in class. My students opened notebooks in Google Docs, and we hardly used any textbooks at all in any of my subjects (English (ESL), social studies, religion and an elective called international cooperation). This was a new approach for my 8th graders, but they didn’t bat an eye before diving into it.

All my students bring their smartphones to class. We have a BYOD policy (link to Edutopia), and I have embraced this a few years already. Now it was essential! Without notebooks, they had to use their phones to access their Google Docs, and of it meant starting our journey together on digital citizenship (Edutopia).

Needless to say, some time was lost due to lack of battery, wifi troubles and password confusion when working with new tools and apps, but I believe we encountered these obstacles earlier, and have learnt from them, rather than thinking we could have avoided them altogether.

The tools and apps we have used the most are Google Docs and Google Slides. This has allowed my students to work collaboratively in groups and as a class without regard to time and place.

Creating a global classroom is something which has been important to me for a long time. All my classes are involved in eTwinning projects, with project partner schools in Italy, Portugal, France, Lithuania and last but not least; Lillesand, my hometown in the Southern part of Norway. Activities differ according to the topics of the projects, but they are communicating and they have a real audience for sharing their work. They will experience collaboration across time zones and borders next term, and increase their cultural understanding, which are some of the primary goals when using eTwinning.

This term my students also used Soundcloud and shared stories in Padlet. Sadly not everyone managed to access Soundcloud from their device, but the lesson was a powerful one: recording and sharing their best work. Audacity might be a smoother working alternative, so I will continue exploring tools for this kind of work next term.

Kaizena proved to be almost exactly the sort of tool I was looking for when grading English texts. My students add their Google Docs in Kaizena, and I can edit their documents in Google, and give feedback on their skills, and post lessons which are relevant to each student according to their needs to improve. One drawback is that Kaizena is not compatible with Microsoft Explorer, so when using the school computers we came up blank trying to connect to Kaizena. This meant that we had to rely on the smartphones, or our computers at home to use it. The upside is that the students can keep track of their skills and play posted videos or read articles about skills they need whenever they want to.

We started out enlisting in Curriculet for reading novels online. It was easy to set up the whole class, but the available books turned out to be a bit hard for my 8th graders, and the free classics only appealed to a few of them. I have to explore other apps and reading experiences for them this term, and maybe come back to Curriculet next term, when we have classics lined up as a topic in our English classes.

Formative assessment (Edutopia) is something I have used always, to some extent, but I haven’t been conscious of the term or how to best use it to improve my student’s learning. This term I used Socrative and Answergarden more and shared it with parents. These tools have lit up my understanding, and I recommend them to everyone!

A new tool I have tried in my English classes this term is noredink. It assesses each students’ grammar ability, and gives them new tasks according to their skill level. A gift for any teacher! It is calibrated for native speakers, so choosing the grade level with care is important. I look forward to exploring this tool further in the upcoming term.

My school, #Ramstadskole, will start giving each student an ipad 1:1 this next term. Before this happens our broadband facilities will be improved, and the teachers and students will get some training. I hope that the experiences we have gained so far; going paperless and using edtech tools will make the transition to ipads easier.

Which experiences, ideas and tools were the most important in your teaching this last term? Inquiring minds want to know!